Celestial events in the skies for the week of Mar. 20-26, 2018 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
The first full week of Spring. The Moon has slipped back into the early evening, and Venus blazes with Mercury right after sunset. And the morning sky before twilight has planets and stars strung lightbulbs. Whether evening or morning, take the time to sit down, look up and loose oneself in the contemplation of the stars…it’ll be time well spent. And something the great, late theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking urged all humans to do frequently.
Tuesday, March 20
Vernal Equinox is today at 12:15 pm as the Sun enters Aries the Ram…and the long, hard winter is over. Seen from the equator, the Sun is directly overhead at noon, and around the world there are an equal 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.
Wednesday, March 21
There is more dark time in the morning before the 7 am sunrise, thanks to Daylight Saving Time. And that means you can see the planets Jupiter, Mars and Saturn strung across the sky. Look south at 5 am and Jupiter is brightest, right of the Milky Way in Libra. To the left is the red star Antares in Scorpius, Mars is to its left, and Saturn is yellowish in Sagittarius.
Thursday, March 22
In the southwest skies after twilight, the crescent Moon is above the reddish star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. On this 1997 date in astronomy, the world was abuzz as Comet Hale-Bopp was closest to Earth and an easy naked eye sight in the evening skies.
Friday, March 23
On this 1840 date in astronomy, the first photo of the Moon through a telescope was made by William Draper on a silver platinum photographic plate. Just 174 years later, most of us have a digital camera on our cell phones that will take a great Moon photo through any telescope.
Saturday, March 24
First Quarter Moon is tonight, in the feet of Gemini the Twins, right above Orion the Hunter. For a few hours in the evening, the winter constellations still dominate—brilliant star Sirius blazing above the southern horizon.
Sunday, March 25
Palm Sunday. On this astronomy date in 1996, naked eye Comet Hyakutake was closest to Earth, heading back out in the Netherlands of the Solar System after whipping around the Sun.
Monday, March 26
Next Sunday is Easter, a varying date determined by astronomy. The date is always determined by the first Sunday (April 1) after the first Full Moon (Saturday March 31) after the Spring Equinox (March 20).